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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Klyce Motors — Memphis' Studebaker Dealership

Posted By on Thu, Dec 18, 2008 at 8:50 PM

a9e1/1242006816-klycemotors.jpg Brothers Arnold and Walter Klyce opened Memphis’ only Studebaker dealership on South Cleveland in 1945. Newspapers praised the building’s clean design, created by Memphis architect Zeno Yeates, and proclaimed it “one of the most modern and attractive dealerships in the South.”

This photo, taken in 1950, shows a pair of what appear to be 1949 Studebaker Commander models parked at the curb (the gentlemen in the photo were not identified). These two cars probably weren’t sold to customers, since each one has the company name and address painted rather prominently on the doors, along with with catchy slogan, “They’re Nice at Klyce.”

The Klyce brothers also operated the White Rose Laundry Company, with branches located throughout Memphis as well as in Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Arnold decided to run the Studebaker dealership, while Walter devoted his time to the laundry, though each one remained a vice president of the other’s business. To say Arnold had multiple interests would be an understatement. He once owned a banana plantation in Central America, served as campaign manager for Henry Loeb when Loeb ran for public works commissioner, directed Loeb’s equally successful campaign for mayor, and in his spare time served as president of the Memphis Polo Association and the Memphis Area Automobile Association.

Studebakers, though packed with innovative features and noted for their futuristic (some might say ahead-of-their-time) designs, never really caught on with the motoring public. Arnold Klyce closed the dealership on Cleveland in 1952. The Studebaker Company struggled for years, but finally went bankrupt in 1964.

Towards the end of his life, Klyce donated $100,000 towards the construction of a new facility for Theatre Memphis on Perkins Extended. When he was asked to stand up before the premiere performance in the new building and be applauded for his gift — at the time the largest donation to a performing-arts group in Memphis — he told reporters he couldn’t take any credit, saying, “I didn’t drive a single nail in the construction of this beautiful building.” Only the Lauderdales share that level of modesty.

PHOTO COURTESY SPECIAL COLLECTIONS, UNIVERSITY OF MEMPHIS LIBRARIES

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